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When Your Teen Hides What’s Really Going On

Is your teen hiding things from you? Are you unsure what’s really going on? Teens are sometimes strange and their ways mysterious. But in this article, I’ll shed some light on some common factors that can cause teens to hide from their parents, and why your teen might be living a life you don’t know about.


Is Depression a Factor?
Life with teens can feel like an emotional roller coaster. But how can you tell if your teen is seriously depressed or just kind of sad? If your child is shutting down and shutting you out because of depression, you can’t just wait for the symptoms of depression to pass. There’s a good chance your teen doesn’t understand what’s really going on inside her own heart and mind.

Your teen might not be able to describe what she’s feeling. Depression should be taken seriously. Even if your teen says she wants to be left alone, you need to encourage, invite, and warmly approach your teen. Require some “walk and talk” time in order to engage your teen in a conversation about what’s going on. If your teen won’t talk to you, require that she talk to someone else, perhaps a youth pastor, friend, or a counselor.


Is Loss a Factor?
Most people experience some kind of loss. Parents often overlook losses in their teens’ lives, such as a breakup or online rejection because they don’t seem serious for an adult. But even a seemingly insignificant loss can seriously affect your teen.

Even if you can’t pinpoint the loss in your teen’s life, it’s possible that he has experienced it. After a loss, your teen may try to fill up the emptiness with things that don’t last. Some teens turn to behaviors that are inappropriate, in search of attention, by doing things you might not expect and would not approve. This may cause your teens to hide their actions. Don’t shrug off your suspicions. Enter your teen’s world, ask what’s going on in their lives, and uncover their hurt. Give your child the freedom to express his grief over a loss. As they share their pain, move toward them relationally. Depending on the loss, your teen might benefit from counseling to help him learn how to cope with loss.


Are Drugs a Factor?
Using drugs can lead a teen deep into a hidden life of escape from his real problems. I talk to teens all the time who hid their first “highs” from their parents. As they got deeper into drug use, they had to hide more and more, until it seemed like their entire life was a lie. If you suspect that drugs are a factor, then talk to your teen to find out how deep his drug use is. Is he starting to experiment with drugs? Or is he addicted? Clearly communicate your family’s boundaries and consequences if he keep using drugs. You may need to occasionally drug test at home, or even remove your teen from his current situation to help him stop using drugs and get a fresh start.


Are Expectations a Factor?
Parents who have expectations that are impossible to meet often have kids who hide all of the things in their life that are “bad” or don’t meet the standard. You can help your teen handle his failures by creating an atmosphere at home that allows for mistakes. One way to help your teen to be more open about what’s really going on is to be open about your own past mistakes or current inadequacies. As you share how you’ve messed up and what it took to overcome your failures, your teen will see that it is possible to come back from unmet expectations. Don’t shame your teen when he messes up and never withdraw your love and affection when they don’t meet your expectations. Instead, treat your teen the same way your Heavenly Father treats you, by offering grace.


Hey moms and dads … I found that teens really do want to share what they’re doing if the atmosphere of the home is able to handle the disappointing news of their negative actions and thoughts. I encourage you to work hard to create an open and warm environment at home so that when your teen puts her toe in the pool of vulnerability she feels welcome to take a swim and jump in with both feet. I found that teens really do want to be found out, so they can stop doing the things they find themselves doing and start doing the things that they know they should be doing. It’s their choice, but it’s your responsibility to create an environment where sharing thoughts, admitting wrong doings, and being honest is welcomed and something to be admired. It begins by creating a setting for that to happen.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.